By reader acclaim: “Cop sues family after saving baby”

“A police officer has sued the family of a 1-year-old boy who nearly drowned because she slipped and injured a knee responding to their 9-1-1 rescue call.” Andrea Eichhorn, a police sergeant in Casselberry, Florida, responded to the pool accident, and now “claims the boy’s family left a puddle of water on the floor, causing her fall during the rescue efforts. She broke her knee and missed two months of work.” So she’s suing the Cosmillo family. “It’s a situation where the Cosmillos have caused these problems, brought them on themselves, then tried to play the victim,” says her attorney, David Heil. Joey Cosmillo, the infant in question, suffered severe brain damage and lives in a nursing home now. (Rene Stutzman, “Cop who fell on the job sues family of baby who almost drowned”, Orlando Sentinel, Oct. 10; AP/Florida Today, Oct. 10)(slightly reworded to clarify sequence of events).

Plus: commentary on the above (Mike Thomas, “Hello, 911? Send a cop — who won’t sue”, Orlando Sentinel, Oct. 11). And update: cop decides to withdraw suit after public outcry.


  • This suit would have to reverse decades of established case law, discussed in the past, here.

    If allowed, the training academies of first responders become escalators to the making of $billions as plaintiffs.

    Every call to rescue from an accident or from a crime, becomes a plaintiff opportunity for the officer to sue the property owners.

    The government provided the training, the privileges, and the workmen’s comp insurance, making litigation by police and firemen unnecessary, and unjust.

    I wonder if part of the employment agreement is to waive litigation. If not, it should be included.

  • To respond to Supremacy Claus’ post, the lawsuit only requires decades of case law to be reversed if Florida still recognizes the “fireman’s rule” (or one of several other similar names), which limits the ability of emergency personnel to sue for negligence when responding to a call. A distressing number of states have abolished or substantially diminished the rule either by statute or court decision.

  • Without knowing any details, I suspect that it’s possible that this is not as it seems. I am under the impression that in many cases like this, the plaintiff’s insurance company refuses to pay, insisting that the injured person go after someone else. The injured person, who may be facing massive medical bills, is left with the awful choice of bankruptcy or crippling debt on the one hand, and looking like an asshole on the other. Again, I don’t know if that’s the case here, but I do know that that’s where people sometimes find themselves after an accident like this.

  • Tell that to the Florida legislature, Supremacy Claus. They passed a law eliminating the fireman’s rule in the early ’90s.

  • This is the most unbelievable point of this story: the boy’s grandfather, who lived in the home, stated “Of course there’s going to be water in the house. He was sopping wet when we brought him in.”

    The puddle of water, supposedly left negligently on the floor, was the result of bringing the wet near-drowning victim into the house. To hear the plaintiffs lawyer castigating the family in print for “bringing this on themselves” is a new low.

  • NE2d,

    I don’t think so.

    What usually happens when the injured party has health insurance is that the health insurer pays the majority of his medical bills.

    When the injured party sues, the health insurer then has a right to file a lien against any proceeds the injured party gets out of a settlement or verdict.

    Usually, the injured party’s insurer can negotiate with the health insurer to reduce the amount of the lien (in my experience, it ends up being about 2/3 of the original bill).

    If my health insurance refused to pay a covered medical expense, the first entity I’d sue would be the health insurance company – not the alleged tortfeasor.

    But that only gets you money to cover your bills – where’s the lottery jackpot?

    The answer, my friend, is in the “noneconomic damages,” which are sometimes outlandishly huge and the main purpose of which (though you’ll never hear a PI attorney admit it) is to ensure that the attorney gets paid.

  • NE2D: What possible grounds could the fireman’s (or more likely the department’s) insurance company have for refusing to pay?

  • E-Bell,

    Thank you for the clarification. But is it not true that lawsuits that seem to be disputes the named parties are actually disputes between their respective insurance companies? We all know that insurance companies are loathe to pay out claims, so it’s a matter of: “Your insurance company should pay,” “No, your insurance company should pay.”


    This is just idle speculation (which, after all, is what the internet is all about), but is it not possible that the policy could simply state, “This policy does not cover injuries that are the result of another’s tortous (sp?) conduct”?

  • Did the cop have the consent of those in the home, or did she presume it and push her way in without first determining specifically what were the terms under which she could enter the private residence? I doubt if a call to a dispatcher automatically creates a consent for the dispatched to enter private property.

  • NE2d,

    There is seldom any dispute between insurers in personal injury cases.

    What you describe is common, however, for auto property damage claims. Property damage insurers often have a right of subrogation against the tortfeasor (who theoretically has his own insurance). In some states, auto insurers are required to send all their disputed property damage claims to arbitration, thus easing the burden on the courts (and insureds).

    As for your other point, I wouldn’t buy an insurance policy that excluded the tortious conduct of others. Regardless, I would expect that most courts would find such a provision to be against public policy. I mean, the tortious conduct of others is one of the chief reasons why you purchase insurance (particularly auto insurance)!

  • Torts deter. As a matter of policy, do we want to deter future 911 calls by anyone with private insurance or assets? Does allowing torts promote the governmental function of protecting the public? The suit should not survive first pleadings, as a matter of public policy, to avoid deterring the public from calling for help, and to avoid the unjust enrichment of emergency personnel using their jobs to generate massive numbers of lawsuits, and making $bils off their civil service jobs.

  • The suit has been dropped by the officer and she has been suspended by the Casselberry police department.

    Officer Drops Suit, Placed On Leave